The L Word

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The L Word
The L Word logo.jpg
Created byIlene Chaiken
Michele Abbot
Kathy Greenberg
StarringJennifer Beals
Erin Daniels
Leisha Hailey
Laurel Holloman
Marlee Matlin
Eric Lively
Eric Mabius
Rose Rollins
Katherine Moennig
Pam Grier
Mia Kirshner
Daniela Sea
Kate French
Rachel Shelley
Karina Lombard
Lauren Lee Smith
Elizabeth Keener
Kristanna Loken
Alexandra Hedison
Sarah Shahi
and Dallas Roberts
Opening theme"The L Word" performed by Betty (seasons 2-6)
Composer(s)Elizabeth Ziff
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes70 (list of episodes)
Production location(s)Vancouver, British Columbia
Los Angeles, California
Running time50 minutes
Production company(s)Anonymous Content
Dufferin Gate Productions
Coast Mountain Films
Showtime Networks
MGM Television
Original networkShowtime
Original releaseJanuary 18, 2004 (2004-01-18) –
March 8, 2009 (2009-03-08)
External links

The L Word is an American-Canadian co-production television drama that aired on Showtime from January 18, 2004 to March 8, 2009. The series follows an ensemble cast of friends who live in West Hollywood, California; it featured American television's first ensemble cast depicting homosexual, bisexual and a transgender person .[1] The premise originated with Ilene Chaiken, Michele Abbot and Kathy Greenberg; Chaiken is credited as the primary creator of the series, and also served as its executive producer. The series theme song was performed by the band Betty.

A sequel series, The L Word: Generation Q, debuted in December 2019.


The L Word was co-created by Ilene Chaiken, Michele Abbot, and Kathy Greenberg; Chaiken served as the primary creator and executive director of the series, as well as a writer and director.[2] Steve Golin and Larry Kennar served as additional executive producers, while Guinevere Turner, Susan Miller, Cherien Dabis, and Rose Troche were among the series' writers.

The series premiered on Showtime on January 18, 2004 and ran for a total of six seasons, airing its finale on March 8, 2009. The L Word was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia at Coast Mountain Films Studio, as well as on location in Los Angeles, California. MGM Worldwide Television distributes the series internationally, and it is syndicated by Logo TV and Netflix.

Series overview[edit]

Cast and Characters[edit]

(Left to right) Mia Kirshner, Daniela Sea, and Anne Ramsay at L6, "The L Word" Fan Convention in 2009
Actor/Actress Character Appearances
Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6
Jennifer Beals Bette Porter Main
Mia Kirshner Jenny Schecter Main
Pam Grier Kit Porter Main
Laurel Holloman Tina Kennard Main
Katherine Moennig Shane McCutcheon Main
Leisha Hailey Alice Pieszecki Main
Erin Daniels Dana Fairbanks Main Guest
Karina Lombard Marina Ferrer Main Guest Guest
Eric Mabius Tim Haspell Main Guest Guest
Sarah Shahi Carmen de la Pica Morales Main Guest
Rachel Shelley Helena Peabody Main
Eric Lively Mark Wayland Main
Daniela Sea Moira/Max Sweeney Main
Dallas Roberts Angus Partridge Main Guest
Janina Gavankar Eva "Papi" Torres Main Guest
Rose Rollins Tasha Williams Main
Marlee Matlin Jodi Lerner Main


Contemporary use of the phrase "the L word" as an alias for lesbian dates to at least the 1981 play My Blue Heaven by Jane Chambers, in which a character stammers out: "You're really...? The L-word? Lord God, I never met one before."[3]

The original code-name for The L Word was Earthlings, a rarely used slang term for lesbians.[4]

"The Chart"[edit]

"The Chart", an undirected labeled graph in which nodes represent individuals and lines represent affairs or hookups, is a recurring plot element throughout the series.[5] Originally, The L Word was to be based around a gay woman Kit Porter, and "The Chart" was tattooed on her back.

In season 4, Alice launches The Chart as a social networking service. Concurrently, a real-world parallel project was created.[6] The website, which allowed registered members to create their own profiles and hosted several blogs on the show, operated from the beginning of season four until the end of season six, after which the site was discontinued and redirected to Showtime's official website.[7]

A small portion of The Chart, covering some of the relationships established throughout the series. Pink circles denote primary characters, purple circles denote supporting and minor characters, and grey circles denote characters who are only alluded to and never depicted.


Season 1[edit]

The first season of The L Word premiered on January 18, 2004 and ended on April 11, 2004. The season introduces Bette Porter and Tina Kennard, a couple in a seven-year relationship attempting to have a child; Marina Ferrer, owner of the local cafe The Planet; Jenny Schecter, who has recently moved to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend Tim Haspell; Shane McCutcheon, an androgynous, highly sexual hairstylist; Alice Pieszecki, a bisexual journalist who maintains The Chart; Dana Fairbanks, a closeted professional tennis player; and Kit Porter, Bette's straight half-sister.

Season 2[edit]

The second season of The L Word premiered on February 20, 2005 and ended on May 15, 2005. The season introduces Carmen de la Pica Morales, a DJ who becomes part of a love triangle with Shane and Jenny; Helena Peabody, a wealthy art patron who becomes a rival to Bette and love interest to Tina (while she and Bette are separated).

Major storylines in the season include Tina's pregnancy following a second insemination, culminating in Tina and Bette's reconciliation at the end of the season; the introduction of Mark Wayland, a documentary filmmaker who moves in with Shane and Jenny and Kit's acquisition of The Planet following Marina's departure from Los Angeles;[8] Shane and Jenny becoming the unknowing subjects of Mark's documentary after he places hidden cameras in their home; a developing relationship between Alice and Dana; and insights into Jenny's past as an abused child.

Season 3[edit]

The third season of The L Word premiered on January 8, 2006 and ended on March 26, 2006. The season introduces Moira Sweeney, a working-class butch; and Angus Partridge, a male nanny who becomes Kit's lover.[9]

The season is set six months after the birth of Tina and Bette's daughter Angelica. Major storylines include Bette and Tina's relationship deteriorating once again, which leads Tina to start a fake relationship with a man in order to win a possible custody battle with Bette; Moira taking the name Max after coming out as a trans man; Dana's diagnosis with and ultimate death from breast cancer;[10] and Shane and Carmen's engagement and wedding, which ends when Shane abandons Carmen at the altar. Helena is integrated into the primary group of characters as a friend rather than a rival; she acquires a movie studio, where she is entangled in a sexual harassment lawsuit that leads her mother to cut her off financially.

In the lead-up to the third season, the fan fiction website launched a contest where individuals could submit a piece of L Word fanfiction, with the winner's story incorporated into a scene in third-season episode.[11][12]

Season 4[edit]

The L Word was renewed for a fourth season on February 2, 2006,[13] and began filming on May 29, 2006.[14] The season aired from January 7, 2007 to March 25, 2007,[15] and introduces Jodi Lerner, a love interest for Bette;[16] Phyllis Kroll, Bette's closeted new boss at California Art College;[17] Paige Sobel, a love interest for Shane;[18] Tasha Williams, a former Captain in the Army National Guard and love interest for Alice; and who has slept with the most women on The Chart.[17] reprises her role for two episodes.[19]

Major storylines in the season include the adaptation of Lez Girls, an article written by Jenny for The New Yorker, into a film; Bette taking a job as a dean at California Art College; and Tasha’s struggle to reconcile her military service with her sexuality under don't ask, don't tell.

Season 5[edit]

The L Word was renewed for a fifth season on March 8, 2007, and began filming in summer 2007.[20] The season aired from January 6, 2008 to March 23, 2008 and introduces Bette Porter, Jenny's new personal assistant a closeted gay actress who portrays the lead role in Lez Girls' The Planet with her lover Bette Porter [21] Papi and Angus were written out of the series.[22]

Major storylines in the season include Bette and Tina reconciling their relationship, Jenny being ousted from the production of Lez Girls, and Tasha's dishonorable discharge from the military.

Season 6[edit]

The sixth and final season of The L Word aired from January 18, 2009 to March 8, 2009.[23] The season introduces Jennifer Beals, Bette's college roommate, who attempts to open a gallery with her; Jamie Chen, a social worker who becomes involved in a love triangle with Alice and Tasha; and Marybeth Duffy and Sean Holden, detectives with the LAPD.[24]

The season is focused on the murder of Jenny. The events of the season are depicted as a flashback leading up to the night of the crime, with each episode focused around what could have potentially motivated each character to have killed Jenny. The series concludes without revealing the identity of her murderer.

Interrogation tapes[edit]

Following the series finale of The L Word, Showtime released a series of seven short videos depicting Bette, Jenny, Tina, Nikki Shane being questioned by the police over Jenny's murder. The episodes were posted weekly on Showtime's website. Showtime additionally released an interview with L Word series creator Ilene Chaiken, released in two weekly instalments. In the interview, Chaiken stated that Alice went to jail for Jenny's murder, but was not necessarily guilty of the crime.[25][26]

Generation Q[edit]

On July 11, 2017, it was announced a sequel series was in the works with Showtime.[27] Marja-Lewis Ryan has been selected to serve as executive producer and showrunner.[27][28][29] On January 31, 2019, Entertainment Weekly reported Showtime picked up the sequel series for a premiere later in the year, in which Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, and Leisha Hailey will reprise their roles.[30] Other sources, such as TVLine[31], call the eight-episode order a revival, so the nature of the follow-up is unclear. The new series, titled The L Word: Generation Q, will premiere in the fall of 2019.[32]

Related media[edit]

Unaired spin-off series and film[edit]

In July 2008, Showtime CEO Matthew Blank announced that the network would shoot a pilot for an L Word spin-off set in a women's prison, based on a pitch from L Word series creator Ilene Chaiken. Titled The Farm, the series would star Famke Janssen, Melissa Leo, Laurie Metcalf, and the lattermost of whom would reprise her role as now detained in prison. The series shot its pilot episode in December 2008.[33] In April 2009, Showtime declined to pick up The Farm for a full series order.[34]

Prior to the announcement of Generation Q, Chaiken expressed interest in producing an L Word feature film in an interview aired through The L Word's website, although according to her declarations, it would likely not emphasize any of the unresolved plot lines of the show and would simply continue the story of the characters' friendships.

The Real L Word[edit]

The Real L Word, a reality television series produced by Chaiken, aired on Showtime from June 20, 2010 to September 6, 2012. The series, initially set in Los Angeles and later in Brooklyn, New York City, followed a group of real-life gay women.[35]

L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin[edit]

L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, a documentary directed by Lauren Lazin and produced by Chaiken, premiered on Showtime on August 8, 2014.[36] The documentary, which follows a group of LGBT women in rural Mississippi, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary in 2015.[37]


EZgirl served as The L Word's music composed, while Natasha Duprey served as music supervisor. A total of five soundtracks were produced.

All three of Leisha Hailey's bands were referenced in the series: a song by The Murmurs was used in the first season, Shane wears a shirt for Gush in the second season. Songs by Uh Huh Her were featured in the show's fifth and sixth seasons; Tasha is seen wearing an Uh Huh Her t-shirt during the sixth season.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The show's first season was "broadcast to critical acclaim and instant popularity"; as an article from The New York Times pointed out:[38]

Before "The L Word," female gay characters barely existed in television. Interested viewers had to search and second-guess, playing parlor games to suss out a character's sexuality. Cagney and Lacey? Jo on "Facts of Life"? Xena and Gabrielle? Showtime's decision in January 2004 to air The L Word, which follows the lives of a group of fashionable Los Angeles gays, was akin to ending a drought with a monsoon. Women who had rarely seen themselves on the small screen were suddenly able to watch gay characters not only living complex, exciting lives, but also making love in restaurant bathrooms and in swimming pools. There was no tentative audience courtship. Instead there was sex, raw and unbridled in that my-goodness way that only cable allows.

Co-creator and executive producer Ilene Chaiken had some issues with the reaction:[38]

I do want to move people on some deep level. But I won't take on the mantle of social responsibility. That's not compatible with entertainment. I rail against the idea that pop television is a political medium. I am political in my life. But I am making serialized melodrama. I'm not a cultural missionary.

By the time the sixth and final season began, however, reviews had become far more negative. The New York Times called the show a "Sapphic Playboy fantasia" that has "shown little interest in variegating portrayals of gay experience. Instead it has seemed to work almost single-mindedly to counter the notion of "lesbian bed death" and repeatedly remind the viewer of the "limits and tortures of monogamy" while "never align[ing] itself with the traditionalist ambitions [for same-sex marriage] of a large faction of the gay rights movement".[39]


Unlike its network predecessor Queer as Folk, praised critically for its ground-breaking material that was both well-written and well-acted, there were complaints from critics regarding The L Word's watered-down, unrealistically glamorous characters and melodrama, and some reviewers and fans were put off by the theme song (introduced in the second season) and the "graceless, clunky dialogue".[40]

While the show is seen as fulfilling gay characters' "obvious and modest representational need"[41] or even the "ferocious desire not only to be seen in some literal sense... but to be seen with all the blood and angst and magic that you possess",[42] the show has been criticized for various scenes which serve to "reify heteronormativity".[43] The show has also been praised for its nuanced consideration (in the first season) of how and in what ways gay women should stand up to the religious right, with the "Provocations" art show storyline being "a fictionalized version of what happened when Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center booked a controversial exhibition of Mapplethorpe photographs in 1990".[44]

Several shows have referenced The L Word, including South of Nowhere's first season episode "Girls Guide to Dating"; According to Jim; the medical drama House; the first season finale of Weeds, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show (July 24, 2006); Chappelle's Show: The "Lost Episodes"; The Sopranos episode Live Free or Die; the US version of The Office; Gilmore Girls fourth season episode Scene in a Mall; The Big Gay Sketch Show; The Simpsons episode You Kent Always Say What You Want; and Family Guy episode Brian Sings and Swings. Also, movies such as Puccini for Beginners and I Can't Think Straight have made mention of The L Word as to reference lesbians but considers the term is sometimes used as slander.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2006, won a Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for her portrayal of the International Press Academy also nominated the show for a Satellite Award for Best Television Series – Drama. In the second season, Ossie Davis received a posthumous Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a drama series in recognition of his portrayal Bette and Kit Porter's father, Melvin.[45] The show received multiple nominations for GLAAD Media Awards, and both Pam Grier and Jennifer Beals were repeatedly nominated for NAACP Image Awards.

In 2008 The L Word's companion website was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for Best Use of Commercial Advertising on Personal Computers.


  1. ^ Maya Salam. "The Very (Very) Slow Rise of Lesbianism on TV - The New York Times". Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  2. ^ Amy Cavanaugh, "An interview with Ilene Chaiken" Archived 2009-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, Washington Blade, 2009-03-09.
  3. ^ Bailey, Lucille M. (1995). "Still More on "X-Word"". American Speech. Duke University Press. 70 (2): 222–223. doi:10.2307/455820. JSTOR 455820.
  4. ^ Schenden, Laurie K. "Folk Like Us". Curve Magazine. Archived from the original on May 6, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Jensen, "‘The L Word’ Spins Off Its Chart", NY Times, 2006-12-18.
  6. ^ Pete Cashmore, " – The L-Word Launching Lesbian Social Network", Mashable, 2006-12-18.
  7. ^ Ilene Chaiken, "A New Year A New OurChart" Archived June 29, 2009, at the Portuguese Web Archive, Showtime.
  8. ^ m (2005-02-27). "Lap Dance". Showtime. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  9. ^ "Lifesize". Showtime. 2006-02-12. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  10. ^ "Losing the light". Showtime. 2006-03-12. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  11. ^ Hibberd, James (December 5, 2005), "Lights! Camera! 'L Word' Action!". Television Week. 24 (49):4
  12. ^ (December 5, 2005), "At Deadline".MediaWeek. 15 (44):3
  13. ^ "More Love! More Lust! More Longing! Showtime's The L Word Returns for a fourth Season". Showtime. 2006-02-02. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  14. ^ "Film List: Television series in production in BC". British Columbia Film Commission. 2006-08-29. Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  15. ^ "Next On The L Word". Archived from the original on 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  16. ^ "Marlee Matlin Joins Cast of Showtime's Hit Series The L Word". Showtime. 2006-05-01. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  17. ^ a b "The L Word "Sheperds" in a New Cast Member". Showtime. 2006-06-06. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  18. ^ Dodd, Stacy (2006-07-26). "Kristanna Loken". Variety. Archived from the original on 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
  19. ^ "News". P Papi World. 2006-06-14. Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  20. ^ "Five Times the Love! Lust! Laughs! Longing! SHOWTIME's THE L WORD(R) Returns for a Fifth Season" (Press release). PR Newswire. Archived from the original on 2008-05-11.
  21. ^ Adalian, Josef (2007-03-08). "Showtime loyal to 'L Word'". Variety.
  22. ^ "OurChart. You're On It". OurChart. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
  23. ^ "Showtime will have last 'Word'".[dead link]
  24. ^ Exclusive: Elizabeth Berkley Utters 'The L Word' Jul 22, 2008 by Michael Ausiello
  25. ^ "Showtime : The L Word : Home". Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
  26. ^ Executive Producer Ilene Chaiken and The Cast Comment on different Theories about Jenny's death on YouTube. Originally aired Dec. 18, 2008.
  27. ^ a b Goldberg, Lesley (July 11, 2017). "'The L Word' Sequel in the Works at Showtime". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  28. ^ Otterson, Joe (2017-11-20). "'The L Word' Sequel Series Taps Marja-Lewis Ryan as Showrunner". Variety. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  29. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2017-11-20). "'The L Word' Sequel Taps Marja-Lewis Ryan As Showrunner At Showtime". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  30. ^ Romano, Nick (January 31, 2019). "The L Word sequel ordered to series for 2019 premiere on Showtime". Entertainment Weekly.
  31. ^ Iannucci, Rebecca (January 31, 2019). "The L Word Revival Officially Snags Eight-Episode Order at Showtime". TVLine.
  32. ^ ‘The L Word’ Sequel Gets Official Title, Set For Fall Premiere On Showtime Deadline Hollywood, May 22, 2019
  33. ^ Valerie Anne del Castillo (2008-10-06). "'The L Word' Set to Come Back in January Next Year". Showtime. Archived from the original on 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  34. ^ Annie Barrett (2009-04-03). "Showtime passes on L Word spinoff (whew!) and Matthew Perry series (sniff!)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  35. ^ Rudolph, Ileane (18 June 2010). "The L Word Franchise Keeps It Real with New Series". TV Guide. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  36. ^ Thomas, June (8 August 2014). "L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, a Great Documentary With a Terrible Title". Slate. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  37. ^ Lowe, Kinsey (9 May 2015). "GLAAD Awards NYC: Kelly Ripa, 'Lilting,' 'L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin'". Deadline. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  38. ^ a b Alison Glock (February 6, 2005). "She Likes to Watch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  39. ^ Ginia Bellafante (2009-01-16). "So Many Temptations to Succumb to, So Many Wandering Eyes to Track". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  40. ^ Heather Havrilesky, "I Like to Watch", January 14, 2007
  41. ^ Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Foreword: The Letter L." Reading the L Word, edited by Kim Akass and Janet McCabe. London: I. B. Tauris (2006): xix
  42. ^ Dana Heller, "How Does a Lesbian Look? Stendhal's Syndrome and the L Word." Reading the L Word, edited by Kim Akass and Janet McCabe. London: I. B. Tauris (2006): 57
  43. ^ Samuel A. Chambers, "Heteronormativity and The L Word: From Politics of Representation to a Politics of Norms" Reading the L Word, edited by Kim Akass and Janet McCabe. London: I. B. Tauris (2006): 91
  44. ^ Margaret McFadden, ""We cannot afford to keep being so high-minded": Fighting the Religious Right on The L Word" The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming, edited by James R. Keller and Leslie Stratyner. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers (2006): 125
  45. ^ "Ossie Davis". IMDb.

Death of Tina Kennard

External links[edit]